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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 1

Subject:

The NYPD's ugly history of racial profiling

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Wed, 1 Feb 2012 22:16:21 -0500

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The NYPD's ugly history of racial profiling

New Yorkers have long put up with discriminatory
'stop-and-frisk' searches. Now, the NYPD is demonising us
as fanatical jihadists

Debbie Almontaser

guardian.co.uk
Monday 30 January 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/30/nypd-ugly-history-racial-profiling

Just as, every day, I pray for the safety of my family
members who serve in the New York Police Department, now I
also have to pray for safety and security of my community
from the very agency that is legally bound to protect
them. Recently, it has been revealed that New York's
police commissioner sat for a 90-minute interview during
the making of The Third Jihad, a patently anti-Muslim
film. Just as troubling, for months the commissioner and
his staff played down both his involvement and the extent
of the film's viewing by cadets in training.

The level of obfuscation has shocked New Yorkers and left
many wondering: what else might the NYPD be lying to us
about? Let me tell you about a few policing methods that
have left a bad taste in the mouths of many of the city's
diverse communities.

The NYPD has had a long standing history of bad policing
in black and Latino communities. In 2010 alone, the NYPD
engaged in more than 600,000 stop-and-frisks searches; 84%
of those stopped were of black or Latino. Time and again,
police officers have used force when stopping blacks or
Latinos. Half of these stops have been cited as "furtive
movements", a label that portrays black and brown people
as clandestine. The stop-and-frisk widespread problem that
is racially discriminatory under the ostensible excuse
that the practice is necessary in fighting crime. Sadly,
this procedure has not proved to reduce crime or make the
city any safer.

Another method deployed by the NYPD is subway bag
searches, which were instituted in the wake of the 7 July
2005 bombing of London's public transport system and the
further 21 July 2005 attempt to bomb the underground. NYC
subway riders are "randomly" selected for search. The
NYPD's formula is, supposedly, to stop every 25th person.
In 2009, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a
federal lawsuit on behalf of a Brooklyn man, Jangir
Sultan, a 32-year-old native New Yorker who has been
stopped and searched by police officers 21 times since the
NYPD's subway bag searches began. This is another policing
method to date that has not foiled any subway rider plots
or provided any leads; the only thing it has done is
further perpetuate racial profiling.

I only wish it stopped there, but it doesn't. In 2007, the
NYPD released the Radicalization in the West: The Home
Grown Threat report (pdf) specifically targeting Muslim
New Yorkers. Then, this past summer, Commissioner Kelly
crossed another line by partnering with the CIA. Under his
leadership, the NYPD has engaged in programs that have no
regard for civil liberties. Practices such as data-mapping
of Muslim American communities, extensive and unwarranted
surveillance of individuals, mosques, community leaders
and organizations have become common practices.

In October 2011, the AP reported that the NYPD goes as far
as monitoring "Muslims who change their names to sound
more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for
generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their
faith, are often investigated and catalogued in secret New
York Police Department intelligence files." This
revelation further alienated Muslim immigrants and
converts from integrating in to their desired communities
by criminalizing their first amendment right to change
their names, be it for a wish for assimilation or because
of religious conversion.

Finally, the egregious misstatements from both
Commissioner Kelly and his spokesman, Deputy Commissioner
Paul Browne, regarding their involvement with the Third
Jihad film have left many Muslim American leaders and
organizations calling for both to resign. The Third Jihad
film is a production of the Clarion Fund, an organization
that seeks to demonize and marginalize Muslims in America.
The film is a one-sided depiction of all Muslims as
warmongers seeking world domination; Muslims are plotting
to take over the world, starting with the White House.

This is very far from what Muslim Americans want or
desire. Many fled their countries for the very freedoms
this country promises. As a recent poll affirmed, Muslim
Americans are conspicuously loyal to US values.

Commissioner Kelly's dismissive approach to this training
scandal clearly sends the message that the NYPD will
continue to do business as usual, based on bigotry and
blanket suspicion of Muslim Americans. A coalition I
belong to, Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition,
wrote three letters last year asking for a meeting with
the commissioner - and got no answer. The level of
frustration in New York's Muslim American community is
very high.

In light of the Third Jihad scandal, we will continue to
seek the removal of Commissioner Kelly and Deputy
Commissioner Browne and demand a full investigation into
how and why this ugly, deceitful propaganda that demonizes
American Muslims was used to train our police officers.
And then, we would like to see the creation of a permanent
oversight mechanism for the NYPD, to ensure that nothing
like this ever happens again.

Debbie Almontaser is the founding and former principal of
the Khalil Gibran International Academy. Currently, she is
the the board chairperson of the Muslim Consultative
Network, which is a member organization of the Muslim
American Civil Liberties Coalition

___________________________________________

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